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The role EMS plays in local elections

Editor's note: A news report out of Pocatella, Idaho, paints a bleak picture for the local EMS service. The company is operating with the same number of ambulances and the same amount of staff as it did 33 years ago. Citizens in the city are being asked to vote for a tax increase to fund improvements to the system, and Art Hsieh says this story is going to repeated all over the country.

November 8 is an election day for many regions across the country. As much as I am fascinated and repulsed by the national political scene, it's really true that all politics are local.

In this era of poor economies and little financial stability, citizens of this community are being asked to contribute additional tax money to support their local EMS service. It seems like the local stakeholders are in support of this effort, and I see little opposition online. Yet I am still hesitant to call it a shoe in. Money is tight for a lot of people, and unemployment or underemployment will make this a harder choice to make than one might imagine.

No service, including public safety, is impervious to the harsh reality of the dollar. Government services are being scrutinized more closely than ever before for financial responsibility and managerial effectiveness. This results in the fact we can't take anything for granted. We might imagine that the public fully supports their "right" to EMS – and that's probably true. Yet when it comes down to the ballot box and the wallet, one never knows whether that support will translate to the critical yay vote.

Like everything else in EMS, prevention is often the best antidote to these emergencies. Take nothing for granted. Work closely with your local legislators, media, and most importantly, your community to make sure that your services are well known and understood. Treat each patient with compassion, quality care, and respect; you will never know if that is the person who becomes your greatest supporter, or worst enemy.

Best of luck to Bannock County EMS and its community today.

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